According to a report by Driving Vision News, automakers must equip all new vehicles sold in Japan with automatic headlamps, making it likely the first country in the world with such a mandate. This comes in response to cases of elderly pedestrians and cyclists being hit in traffic at dusk because drivers had not switched on their headlamps.

The move will see headlamps on new cars come with an automatic on function beginning from April 1, 2020, while models introduced before that date, will still be allowed to be sold without automatic lights before October 2021. Moving forward, buses with more than 11 seats and trucks heavier than 3.5 tonnes will need to meet the mandate from April 2021, and all trucks and buses from October 2023.

The feature will be an extension to the current types of automatic headlamps in cars, in that they will come on automatically when the ambient light level is at or below a certain limit, regardless if the driver had switched them on or not.

The mandate meets UN Regulation 48, which states the headlamps must switch on within two seconds when the ambient light level decreases to less than 1,000 lux – a level comparable to that of 15 minutes before sunset on a clear day. On the other hand, when the ambient light exceeds 7,000 lux, the headlamps will turn themselves off automatically within five to 300 seconds.

Drivers in Japan will need to adapt to the new ruling; local custom dictates it is polite to turn off the headlamps and only use position lights while waiting at traffic lights. However, there are instances when drivers forget to switch the headlamps back on once the traffic light goes green, and people generally believe they can still have good visibility even when it gets dark out.